Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mediterranean Love - Abu Gosh Festival October 2009

The 2009 Succoth Abu Gosh Vocal Festival opened at the Kiryat Yearim Church with “Mediterranean Love”, a noon concert of choral- and solo works performed by the Moran Ensemble and conducted by Naomi Faran, its founder and musical director. Established in 1998 as a professional representative choir of singers aged 18 to 30, the ensemble has sung works of contemporary Israeli composers, performed extensively in Israel and abroad and is the recipient of several awards. Accompanying the choir were Shmuel Elbaz and Jacob Reuven-mandolins, Alon Sariel-mandola, Lev Haimovich-mandocello, Avner Yifat-double-bass, Einat Niv-percussion and Eyal Bat-organ and piano.

The major work in the program was Antonio Vivaldi’s (1678-1741) Dixit Dominus, RV 594 in D major. Composed around 1730, it is the second of three settings Vivaldi made of the text (Psalm 109/110). Invariably the first Psalm sung at Vespers, it follows the formula of one movement per verse. We were presented with an uplifting performance packed with rich choral sound, presence, energy and detail. Soloists were focused and competent. Instrumental playing was shaped and delicate, adding Baroque elegance.

Mikis Theodorakis completed his Gypsy Romancero in 1967. It was recorded in 1970 in Paris on Theodorakis’ release from house arrest. For him, the F.G.Lorca texts drew parallels between the Spanish and Greek experience. We heard each of three songs sung by a different soloist – Hagar Sharvit, Efrat Raz and Rafael Zanzori - with the choir joining in. Following “The Embittered Man”, we heard the two songs describing the arrest and heroic death of Antonio Torres Heredia. The plucked instrument timbre provided an effective backdrop to the drama, the choir singing in unison, evoking a crowd scene in the second Antonio Heredia song. Having the words of the three songs in the printed program would have enhanced the audience’s understanding of these powerful works.

In a lighter vein, we were well entertained with a selection of songs from Mediterranean countries. We heard Hadas Faran-Asia performing “El Vito” from Canciones Clasicas Espanolas” set by F.J.Obradors (1897-1945). A “vito” is a fiery dance performed on a table in a tavern to an audience of bullfighters. Faran-Asia is a versatile musician with a large voice and her reading of the song was suitably saucy and feisty, Eyal Bat’s fine accompanying suggesting the plucking of guitars.

Tenor Liran Kopel sang Augustin Lara’s “Granada”. Lara (1897-1970), considered one of Mexico’s finest song-writers, had never set foot in Granada; he was, however, able to capture the sights and sounds of the city in this song. Kopel’s singing is effortless, the timbre of his voice warm and he communicates well with his audience. In the traditional Neapolitan song “Santa Lucia”, transcribed by Teodoro Cottrau (1827-1879), Kopel was joined by baritone Tom Karni, their voices and pace producing a fine blend. The lyrics describe Naples’ waterfront district, with a boatman inviting one to join him to appreciate the cool evening on the water.

Einat Aronstein performed Ernest Chausson’s (1855-1899) love-song “Le Colibri” (1882) set to a poem by Leconte de Lisle about a humming-bird. The audience enjoyed the singer’s nuanced reading and delicate, controlled piano moments.

The concert ended with Eyal Bat’s arrangements of three Israeli songs for choir – N.Nardi’s “Between Euphrates and Tigris” (Bialik), M.Zeira’s “Two Roses” (Orland) and A.Argov’s “Go to the Desert” (Hefer). Bat’s compositions have been performed widely, he accompanies choirs and some of his work is dedicated to children. The arrangements we heard were skillfully written, gregarious and creative, poignant and tasteful, surely some of the most beautiful arrangements of Israeli songs to be heard. Percussionist Einat Niv added delicate touches of glitter and atmosphere to the songs.


The Moran Ensemble singers are superbly trained and competent; their vocal sound is fruity and rich. Kudos to Naomi Faran for a program of high quality performance, a concert offering Abu Gosh Festival-goers interest, enjoyment and variety. The program will be presented again November 28th at the Felicja Blumental Music Centre.

1 comment:

M said...

I have been following the career of Eyal Bat for a long time and I agree with your thoughts of his work. You might enjoy the videos of his work at http://www.myspace.com/eyalbat
(He is probably the only Israeli composer who composed for the musical saw, let alone two musical saws!)